How To Acclimate A New Flowerhorn (Updated 2023)

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Have you seen a Flowerhorn before? I bet a lot of people have not. Well if you watch enough movies, you should have. Flowerhorn Cichlids are amongst the most interesting, beautiful and unique fish around. Within the years, it has been rated the best in tropical fish. They are basically ornamental aquarium fish. They have unique features such as the shape of their head and their colorful body which makes them stand out from other aquatic species. They have a prominent nuchal hump on their head also called Kok. The name ‘Flowerhorn’, is derived from this ‘kok’ feature and also from the ‘vivid flowers’ (the dark spots that run on the lateral wall of their body).

Even though they vary in color, generally, they are blue or metallic green at their rear end and runs different shades of pink and red towards the forepart. While their caudal fins are rounded, their anal and dorsal fins seem to be more long and pointed. They grow about 12-16 inches (31-41 cm) in length. They have one nostril placed on either side of the head and have a lifespan of about 8-10 years. Flowerhorn Cichlids have these amazing characteristics of changing their color and pattern until they become matured adults. Thus, one can say of the juveniles, you can never really tell their appearance until they attain adulthood.


Where do Flowerhorn fish come from? These fishes were hybrids created out of human intelligence. Its breeding can be traced way back to the 1990s specifically in Asia. They came about from the crossbreed of the red devil Cichlids, the Trimac Cichlids (from Central America) and the Blood Parrot Cichlid (from Taiwan). By 1999, the American market already had about four varieties of Flowerhorn Cichlids. Since then its commercial breeding has been rampant. Since they are man-made, they cannot be easily seen in the wild unless released by their owners.

Ways to make your Flowerhorns adjust to their new environment

A good number of people dream of having this amazing beautiful creature in their homes. Considering that it is expensive, it will take some a long while to save up for it. Imagine you just bought your baby Flowerhorns at a very expensive price with the intention of breeding them in your aquarium. You are super excited and rushing home to start up your fish keeping hobby or business. However, you need to take a pause, just don’t be in haste.  You need to help them adjust to this new environment so they can easily thrive and survive. You would not want them died within a few days and you won’t want them getting sick either. You also don’t want your money being a waste. However, do not feel daunted, it is a relief to know that caring for the Flowerhorn is not such a tough task. The fish adapts well to an aquatic parameter and is not much selection of food- it feeds on any food that contains proteins both artificial and lives.  Here are some tips you need to guide you in settling them in:

1- Set up your fish tank properly

Managing the flowerhorn tank should be the first thing you should do before purchasing your Flowerhorns and bringing them home. Depending on your choice, you might want to place the tank on a stand. If you are going for a tank stand, make sure you get one that is firm and strong and can withstand the weight of the tank. The tank should be spacious enough. Do not bother decorating the tank with live plants, as the Flowerhorn will end up eating up any live plant in its way. Decorations in form of rocks should be carefully selected because Flowerhorns are agile and quite aggressive aquatic animals. In the process of wriggling in the tank, the rocks might harm them. Unless it is a very large tank, it is not advisable to have other fish in the tank. If it’s a baby Flowerhorn you just acquired, a tank of about 55 gallons should be okay for a start. It should not be smaller than this size. If it is an adult Flowerhorn, then you should go for a minimum of 75 gallons. For a breeding pair, you should go for a much larger sized tank, about 150 gallons or more. Why do you need a big tank?

  • Flowerhorns grow at a very fast rate especially the male Flowerhorns. They could add about 1 inch every month.
  • The larger the tank, the greater the chances of their colors and Koks developing properly.
  • A larger tank will definitely contain a greater volume of water thereby providing more space for swimming. This will also help with a dilution of waste.
  • Cichlids are quite aggressive and have a high tendency of attacking each other or other inhabitants in the aquarium.

Flowerhorn Aquariums (minimum : 34 gallons)

In addition to the tank, make available; a filter system (this is necessary since they produce much waste. It would be of need to clean the filter at least once a week), air pump, fluorescent light (this is required if the tank is positioned where it cannot receive direct sunlight. The presence of light gives them a feeling of comfort. Do not place them in a dark room as it will darken their colors), sand and gravel (Light colored gravel would help make their colors bright). Bad water quality could be a hindrance to hump growth so make sure the tank is being cycled. Add minerals a day or two before their arrival. The minerals are meant to aid with the maturity of the Flowerhorns and establish a good amount of biological bacteria. Cycling your tank basically has to do with establishing the nitrogen cycle into your new aquarium. It is called the nitrogen cycle because it has three major constituents; ammonia, nitrite (NH3) and nitrate (NO3) which are all toxins and endangers the health of the fish.

Normally living things produce these toxins when they eat, grow and breathe but they have a way of flushing it away. In the case of these fishes, however, they are confined to an enclosed space and there is no way of the toxic waste going away. It stays in the aquarium water contaminating it leading to poisoning. With the introduction of the Nitrogen cycle, certain good bacteria, which feed on these nitrogenous substances, are introduced into the water. This bacteria colony should be fed and grown even before the Flowerhorn are placed into the aquarium. You can speed up the process of building the bacteria colony by feeding those raw shrimp or fish, fish flake food and also by introducing a live bacteria colony from an already established aquarium.

2- Test your aquarium water

The next step is to test your water for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate and pH level using a liquid test kit. Only when the ammonia and nitrite concentration levels are zero and the nitrate is below 40 ppm can you say that the nitrogen cycle has been successfully completed.PH is the measure of the acidity or alkalinity of the water and ranges from 0 to 14.  The ideal pH level ranges between 7.2-7.6. The sudden change to this pH level can be detrimental to the fish. You would have a well-balanced aquarium set up in readiness for your Flowerhorn. Keep changing at least 25-30% of the water every week to maintain this balance.

3- Add some salt to the fish tank

This is not a must-do procedure. However, salt has certain benefits to the breeding of the Cichlids;

  • It serves as a disinfectant. It kills certain parasites such as ich, Oodinium (velvet), Trichodina and costia.
  • It could relieve Brown Blood disease i.e. nitrite poisoning.
  • When a fish is being transferred from the water of one osmotic pressure into one with different osmotic pressure, it helps to ease osmoregulatory stress.
  • Salt helps the fish stabilize and generally eases stress thereby making the fish feel at home.

Some do not see the need to use salt. You don’t have to use it unless you need to but it can be very effective.

4- Do not stress them out before bringing them home

After purchasing your fishes, try not to keep them in direct contact with the sunlight. Keep them away from the heat. This is because light and temperature fluctuation could really put a lot of stress on them. They thrive at the temperature range of 20-300C. However, the ideal temperature is 28-310C.

5- Turn off the aquarium lights and turn down the room lighting

If they were being bagged before being transported, you may not want to expose them suddenly to bright light. Allow them at least 20 minutes with the lights off before you turn them back on.

6- Allow the bag to float for about 15-20 minutes

If your Flowerhorn was ordered from a fish or pet store, there are high chances that it was put in a plastic bag, pumped with air, partially filled with water and sealed with a rubber strip. Place the bag into the tank and allow it to float. This is to bring the temperature in its temporary bag in concordance with that of the aquarium; it helps prepare the fish for its new environment.

7- Add water to the bag at 4 minutes interval

Use a measuring cup and add about half a cup of the aquarium water to the bag. Keeps the bag floating for another 4 minutes then add a half cup of aquarium water again to the bag. Keep on with this process until the initially half-filled bag gets full. The duration of this process varies depending on the size of the bag to be filled.

8- Pour out half of the water and continue floating

After discarding half the water, place the bag into the tank again and repeat the process of pouring half a cup of water into it at 4 minutes interval until it gets filled again.

9- Release your Flowerhorn into the tank

To avoid the water in the transport bag from mixing with that of its new habitat, cut open the transport bag and use an aquarium net or even your hands to scoop it out and into your aquarium. Be gentle when transferring your fish into the aquarium; use a slow swooping movement. Then dispose of the transport bag. Allowing the water from the transport bag mix with that of the aquarium could be helpful though if your aquarium is new, hasn’t been properly cycled and needs some useful bacteria.

10- Feed your Flowerhorn

Flowerhorns generally are gluttons. They love food. If it refuses food, it may be a sign that it is ill. If they do eat, give yourself a pat on the back. You have successfully acclimatized your Flowerhorns. You should know that food affects the health and growth of the fish. If they are fed with good quality food and at the right time, there are high chances that their Kok admired by all would grow massively. Feed them on vitamins minerals and proteins. Vegetables such as spinach, peas, and lettuce would be great sources of vitamins for them. For protein, include in their diet; small fish, juicy and live bloodworms, minced meat, earthworms, mealworms, fish flakes, and shrimps. Feed them at regular intervals so as to maintain their body metabolism. Be careful while feeding it though, it can bite the hand that feeds it.

Flowerhorn Food

In summary;

Flowerhorn is a unique, beautiful, intelligent and highly interactive creature. Even though they can be very aggressive, they are worth the trouble. People keep it for the fun and pleasure.  The fish in its aquarium just adds some glow and color to its surrounding. Despite controversies surrounding its origin, creation, and questions of ethical values, it still hasn’t stopped fish fanatics from keeping it. Just make its environment conducive and favorable for it and you would enjoy it


What are some of the diseases that affect Flowerhorn?

Just like every other aquatic organism, similar diseases also affect the Flowerhorn even though their treatment procedure may vary. Some of these diseases include;

  • Velvet disease- This usually occurs when the fungus invades the Flowerhorn tank. The Fish does not look normal and barely eats.
  • Air bladder disease- The fish cannot swim properly since it is having difficulties opening its air blade. The stress from not swimming very well could lead to its death. The presence of fungus in the fin, virus or bacterial infection is the main cause of this disease.
  • Dropsy Flowerhorn- Here the digestive system of the fish is being affected. Bacterial infection, bad water quality and overcrowding of the fish tank can cause this.
  • White spot disease- The fish has small but vivid white spots all over its body. The fish becomes lethargic, eats less and its fins may be clumped
  • Fin and tail rot- Caused by fungus and highly contagious. Fins and tail seem to be diminishing and get shorter.
  • Mycobacteriosis – This is known with different names such as; fish tuberculosis, piscine tuberculosis, and granuloma disease. This disease is chronic and may take years before it progresses to an advanced stage when it can cause apparent clinical symptoms.

Is Flowerhorn edible?

For lovers of Flowerhorn, this may sound upsetting but humans do consume Flowerhorn. The fact that it is not common to see people eating the quite expensive, colorful Cichlids does not mean it is not edible. Just as it is beautiful to behold, so is the taste delicious and juicy.

Why is Flowerhorn acting nervous?

Fishes just like human beings act nervous especially when they are not in a favorable environment. Bad water quality could make your Flowerhorn apprehensive. Sudden changes in water pH level could trigger their fight-or-flight response. Check out the water chemistry. Is the water soft or hard? Is it acidic and is it compatible with the type of water the Cichlid was used to before you purchased it? Another reason for the Flowerhorn acting edgy could be the size of the tank. If it is too small, fish might be stressed out. Inadequate filtration and overfeeding can also cause this.

What could increase the size of Flowerhorn Kok?

The giant nuchal hump on the head is one of the unique features of the Cichlids. The Kok is like their crown, something they take pride in. Flowerhorn breeders usually love to have this horn grow very big. Some of the fishes have the genetic potential to have a massive-sized Kok while some do not. Below are some tips to grow Flowerhorn kok;

  • Using certain dietary rules. Of course, sometimes that which applies to humans also applies to animals. If you want your Flowerhorn to grow healthy, feed them more with foods that contain high levels of protein. There are some commercial pellets sold at quite a reasonable price e.g Alife, New Life Spectrum and Hikari that contain balanced nutrients, which can aid in Kok development. Also, try incorporating shrimp and krill into their daily regimen.
  • Feed them frequently. Make sure they get at least three square meals a day.
  • Do not confine it in a small space! If you do, it will affect its growth because the Flowerhorn can only grow as much as the size of the tank allows it to. It will hardly thrive in a limited space and the Kok will not reach its full size. The tank should be at least up to 55 gallons.
  • Ensure good water quality. The effect of environmental factors on health and growth cannot be overemphasized. The quality of the water in the fish tank could play either a negative or a positive role to its health, which in turn affects its growth. Always remember to remove leftover foodstuff and change the water always to avoid contamination.

It is noteworthy to say that the Kok on its head is made up of fat deposit or accumulation of fat which can shrink or increase depending on its genetic constituents, the diet it is fed with and the state of its environment.

How do I distinguish between male and female Flowerhorn?

It is usually not easy to tell between both sexes but you can check out for certain features which could help point out the sex of the Cichlid.

  • Its size and shape. The male Flowerhorn grow faster and larger than their female counterparts do. They are usually longer than the females (about 2 inches longer), while the females usually have wider cross-sections. Even though both genders can possess large nuchal humps, the males seem to have larger sized nuchal humps than the females.
  • Observe their breeding pattern. If you watch them closely, you will notice the males release sperm while the females eject eggs into the aquarium water.
  • Different body colors. Since Flowerhorns generally have contrasting body colors, it will be difficult to tell their gender using their body color. However, male Cichlids usually possess more intense colors than their female counterparts do. The females on the other hand usually bear a stripe of black color on their dorsal fins. This is usually absent in the males. The females usually have an orange belly especially when they are about to breed.
  • The difference in their reproductive organs. For the males, their reproductive organs are square-shaped while that of the females are triangular shaped. Their vents are not of the same shape. Females have a U-shaped opening while that of the males is V-shaped.

Can it be kept with other fishes?

The Flowerhorn is territorial and very aggressive. They do not want any situation where they would share their space with any other fish. Keeping more than one together in one tank is not advisable. This would result in them beating each other up. But if you really have to, and then separate them using a kind of glass partition. This would keep them away from each other but give them time to get used to each other’s presence. With time they would learn to start tolerating each other. This also applies when two fishes of the opposite sex are involved.

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